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Niamh Graham


Senior Vice President of Global Human Experience

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How to turn the Great Resignation into the Great Talent Swap

Employee retention has never been tougher, but there are things that businesses can do to turn around the falling numbers and bring the talent home
The Great Resignation

The Covid-19 pandemic has well and truly changed employee expectations. Stress, burnout, and isolation have caused people to rethink what they’re willing to tolerate at work, and if organisations won’t step up to the plate, employees are more than happy to look elsewhere.

A recent Workhuman iQ survey on The Great Resignation that polled more than 3,500 workers about their current and future career plans, found that four in ten people are planning to look for a new job in the next 12 months. With organisations struggling with employee retention, it’s safe to say that the ‘Great Resignation’ is here. 

The answer to the Great Talent Swap lies in digging into to the heart of any organisation – its people

Why are people looking to move jobs? 

People want flexible work. A hybrid working model is becoming a firm favourite – with close to half of British workers stating they want to split their time between the office and working from home – though some employees can’t wait to get back to the office. 

Then there’s pay. After what’s been a challenging financial year for many, it’s no surprise that workers are after well-paying jobs to help them get back on their feet. When surveyed, the number one reason British women want to change jobs is better pay.

Burnout is also rife, and people are looking for job they love and a place where they’re appreciated.

Working from home, often in isolation, has made people recognise the importance of having a job that is meaningful and purposeful, where they feel recognised for their hard work. This may seem like a lot to ask – but what if it wasn’t?

How to attract and retain great talent

Imagine if the Great Resignation was reframed as the Great Talent Swap. If you looked at this ‘all change’ mentality as an unparalleled opportunity to attract the best talent. With this mass shuffling of workers, now is the chance for organisations to create a work culture that speaks to the employee of today and is the place where everyone wants to work.

The answer to the Great Talent Swap lies in digging into to the heart of any organisation – its people.  

Talk to your people and find out what makes them tick and what they want to see in their organisation. No one at any organisations today should be able to say they don’t feel heard – so listen, assess, measure, evaluate, and act on employee feedback. Here are a few ways to do just that.

Whether a monetary reward or a simple thanks, people will feel appreciated and heard – and will want to stay at that organisation

Create and encourage strong relationships between people

The pandemic caused personal relationships to decay and we need to find a way to bring vital human connections back into the workplace. Take the time to celebrate human moments that matter, whether that’s meeting someone’s new puppy over video or celebrating a milestone birthday with a team dinner. These everyday human moments bring people closer together and allow us to feel happy and connected at work – and that’s a workplace where people want to be.

Take a pulse survey of how your employees are feeling today, tomorrow and next week

While surveys aren’t a definitive answer, by frequently checking in with your employees and garnering their feedback, patterns and themes will start to emerge. Do people want more flexible hours? Do they want to see more of their co-workers in person? Do they feel a sense of purpose in their work? Leaders can take the learnings and work to create a culture and place where employees feel at ease and are happy to be working.

Express frequent acknowledgement and appreciation

We all like to be acknowledged and recognised for our work. It makes us feel seen, appreciated and gives us a sense of purpose. Social recognition between peers is a sure-fire way of providing this frequent gratitude and acknowledgement whilst also bringing people together and creating that all-important human connection.

Whether a monetary reward or a simple thanks, people will feel appreciated and heard – and will want to stay at that organisation. Indeed, Workhuman customer AstraZeneca found that since launching its recognition programme, employee turnover rate was two times lower for those employees who are recognised seven to 10 times in a year. 

Encourage regular manager check-ins

Keeping manager-employee relationships open and transparent is a key in checking the pulse of employees. If done on a regular, informal basis, rather than a once-a-year formal review, leaders can not only ensure that employees are meeting their work goals but can also better understand that person’s personal ambitions.

A Brandon Hall study found that organisations that embrace this form of ongoing performance management realise a dramatic improvement in employee retention rates, with companies where managers discuss growth opportunities with employees seeing a 41 per cent increase in employee retention.

Ensure psychological safety

Harvard professor Amy Edmondson defines psychological safety as ‘a belief that one will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns, or mistakes’ at work.

Organisations that can infuse the workplace, even a virtual one, with humanity and personal connections, will be the ones that thrive

When people feel safe enough to be their most authentic selves at work then they’re more likely to be engaged, productive and happy – and more likely to stay. Indeed, a Gallup report shows that organisations that move towards creating psychological safety for their employees see a 27 per cent reduction in employee turnover. 

Be agile, be open, be human

At the end of the day, people want to wake up in the morning and look forward to going to work – even if it’s just a few steps down the hallway to their home office.

While money, flexibility and recognition all matter, organisations that can see the bigger picture and truly take the time to get to know their employees and their expectations, and then be open and agile enough to try new working practices, will be the ones to attract and retain great talent. And organisations that can infuse the workplace, even a virtual one, with humanity and personal connections, will be the ones that thrive – we’re all human after all. 

Interested in this topic? Read The ‘Great Resignation’: Why HR must evolve the employee value proposition.



Author Profile Picture
Niamh Graham

Senior Vice President of Global Human Experience

Read more from Niamh Graham

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